Ambulance gets 9-1-1 dispatching

The new Horizon Health Ambulance Service based at Paris Community Hospital wants to participate in emergency dispatch and response.

When the new ambulance service went operational April 30 the initial purpose was to operate as a transfer service for taking patients brought to the hospital for emergency treatment on to other facilities after being stabilized in the emergency room. At that time, emergency dispatch was not immediately anticipated, but things change.

Jesse Lewsader, Lead Paramedic for Horizon Health, and Samantha McCarty, Director of Emergency Services for Horizon Health, attended the Monday, June 4, Edgar County Emergency Telephone System Board (ETSB) meeting. They requested Horizon Health be assigned a dispatch tone and programmed into the 9-1-1 console for radio dispatching of the ambulance. The other request sought permission to use the countywide fire/EMS dispatch for two-way communications with dispatchers. 

“Horizon Health is now the primary backup to the Chrisman ambulance,” said Lewsader, adding a direct radio dispatch from the 9-1-1 call center at the Edgar County Jail is faster than having the dispatcher relay the information by making a phone call to the hospital. 

The request was supported by Troy Eads, ETSB president, noting he discussed the issue prior to the board meeting with Northern Edgar County Ambulance Service director Jeremy Neal.

“They are having staffing issues,” Eads said about the volunteer operated ambulance based in Chrisman. “As a resident of northern Edgar County, I think we have to be concerned about the public safety there.”

Question about costs to the 9-1-1 system and setting precedent for adding other backup services to the Edgar County Computer Aided Dispatching system were raised.

Eric Shaughnessy of the Edgar County Special Service Area Ambulance expressed concern emergency telephone system money is needed to program pagers the Horizon

be concerned about the public safety there.”

Question about costs to the 9-1-1 system and setting precedent for adding other backup services to the Edgar County Computer Aided Dispatching system were raised.

Eric Shaughnessy of the Edgar County Special Service Area Ambulance expressed concern emergency telephone system money is needed to program pagers the Horizon Health ambulance personnel will carry for dispatching and does that mean ETSB will also have to supply pagers and pay for programming for the Ashmore and Oakland fire services in Coles County since those agencies provide mutual aid back up on the western side of Edgar County?

One action does not necessarily follow the other, said Nanette Crippes, 9-1-1 director.

Crippes said the direct cost to the local ETSB is programming the dispatch console at the jail. Preparing the pagers is Horizon Health’s responsibility. McCarty noted the hospital has the pagers for distribution to the ambulance crews once permission is granted by the ETSB.

In addition, Crippes explained the emergency telephone system does not dictate how agencies are dispatched but complies with what each organization prefers. Currently, Ashmore and Oakland want dispatched through the Coles County system, which means contacting Charleston to relay information when help is needed in Edgar County.

Eads said Horizon Health is located in Edgar County and the request seemed reasonable.

“I think voting no for this would be a huge disservice,” said Eads.

Board member Merle Clark objected to continuing a decision until the actual cost for programming the console was known, describing the delay as moot.

“Our policy has always been to do the best things for safety,” said Clark. “We are going to do this.”

Emergency dispatching for Horizon Health is no different than adding other agencies as needed, according to Eads. He said when the village of Hume created a police department that was added to the 9-1-1 dispatching. 

“We get money from phone service to maintain and provide equipment,” said Eads. “It’s what we receive our user fees for.”

Horizon Health will only receive emergency dispatch when the Northern Edgar County Ambulance is unable to respond. The two requests were approved with board members Eads, Clark, Brian Gates, Karl Farnham Jr., Duane Fidler and Dave McCrocklin voting yes. Shaughnessy abstained from voting as the owner of the Edgar County Special Service Area Ambulance Service. Board member Cindy Belt also abstained because she is a Horizon Health employee.

The Prairie Press

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